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Welcome back to Part 5 of the “The Biggest Parenting Challenges You Will Ever Face” series. From here on out, we’re going to get more and more specific.
If — when you read the title of this series — you didn’t imagine satisfaction and autonomy, you probably did think that technology and authority were going to be on the list. In regard to today’s topic, I believe some of you were expecting it, and the rest of you probably won’t be surprised.
But before we get into it, I have a question for you. Have you checked out TruthLoveParent.com yet? In addition to finding today’s free episode notes and transcript, there are so many other amazing resources are your fingertips. And, if you join the TLP Family, you can access even more biblical parenting tools. I hope you will take the time to peruse the site.
Okay, let’s talk about how morality is going to be one of the biggest parenting challenges you will ever face with your children.
And, lest you think that a discussion about morality is too mature for your younger kids, hang around . . . I think you’re going to be surprised.
Let’s say that your child is three. He has only the most superficial understanding of God, but he’s not born again, so that means that his search for satisfaction is solely under his control. At no point does his desire for comfort conform to God’s will for his life. Even if he desires beneficial things, since he desires them for his own glory, the Lord is not pleased.
On the other hand, if he doesn’t get his own happiness, make his own happiness, or get someone else to give him his own happiness, he gets upset, fearful, tearful, angry, pushy, and a host of other sinful behaviors.
But, let’s say that his expectations for life are pretty balanced. He’s not melting down because your family doesn’t have a pool. He’ll even eat his vegetables because he prefers the smile you give him when he does. Regardless of his easy-going demeanor, he’s using his technology to achieve his preferred level of satisfaction.
And as he continues to be successful in attaining his own happiness, he will develop growing feelings of autonomy.
Now, if you’re having a hard time understanding how I’m making these claims about a three year old, you probably missed the first four parts of this series. You should definitely start with those.
Back to our example.
Once your three year old boy believes he knows best how to be happy, he will start to rebel against any authority that disagrees with his view of happiness or his methods of attaining it. That’s why our children reject our authority.
So, let’s say that you’ve asked your child to clean up his toys, but he doesn’t want to clean up his toys. So, he disobeys, but he doesn’t just disobey, his disobedience is coupled with words and actions that are completely unacceptable. Maybe he throws a tantrum, screams, tells you that he hates you, throws his toys, you get the picture.
Why did he do that?
He knows that behavior isn’t allowed. He may even understand why.
As parents, we need to understand that his behavior is more than mere disobedience and rebellion against authority. His behaviors reflect his evolving view of morality.
One of the definitions of morality from Merriam-Webster is this: morality is “conformity to ideals of right human conduct.”
Merri-Web defines right as "being in accordance with what is just, good, or proper.”
They define good as “virtuous, right, commendable.”
And those of you who joined us for Season 16 understand that those definitions don’t describe what moral and right and good are. They simply define them as being acceptable. But acceptable to whom? Nearly every person has their own beliefs about what is right and good and acceptable. They each have their own opinions on what is moral, immoral, and amoral.
Morality is simply a belief system about what is right and wrong. That’s all it is.
So, even though you’ve told your child that temper tantrums are wrong and harmful and sinful, at that moment your kid believes his behavior is good and beneficial and valuable. His belief concerning moral behavior is — at that moment — different from yours.
So, let’s talk about how this happens.
Regardless of our age, once we believe that we should be our highest authority, we consequently get to decide what’s right and wrong. Of course we do . . . we’re the authority. Isn’t that what authority does?
By the way, no, that’s not what good authority does. No human being gets to decide what is right and wrong. All we get to do is agree with God and strive to apply His commands in a way that pleases Him.
Anyway, if I believe I’m in charge of my satisfaction, and I find that stealing money makes me happy, then I believe that stealing money is an acceptable choice. At that moment, I’ve defined my own morality — even though it likely disagrees with your understanding of morality, the government’s position on the topic, or God’s decrees.
Here’s an older example. Teenagers often believe their music is good even when it’s filled with godless words and beliefs — and it doesn’t matter that you disagree with them. They believe their music is valuable, so — whether they use the word “moral” or not — they believe the music is moral.
For those of you with older children, this explains why debates about morality often end in stalemates. I say something is wrong, my child doesn’t share my opinion, and there’s often very little I can do change their mind because it’s what I think versus what they think.
By the way, I linked a resource in the description of today’s episode about how to rightly debate your kids.
One of the best ways to debate is to agree with God. Like with every other concept, God is the one who gets to define morality.
Proverbs 21:2, “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.”
I Corinthians 6:9-10 we find a perfect example of God weighing hearts: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?”
Did you catch that? God just said that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. That’s a huge deal!
But what is righteous? Righteousness is that which God defines as moral.
But lest we try to create righteousness in our own image, God gets more specific about what immoral behavior looks like. “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” Those are all examples of immorality.
And here’s the thing we absolutely must understand about our homes. Your understanding of morality isn’t inherently better than your kids. You are a human. Sure, you’ve lived longer and probably have pragmatic reasons you think your experiences and successes and what-not prove that your morality is acceptable.
But your kids know that there are people your age or older who share your child’s belief concerning morality. Therefore, pragmatically, the fact that you’re older doesn’t mean that your view of morality is superior to theirs. In fact, when you think about it, celebrities whose morals are far outside God’s Word, who are richer and more popular and seemingly more successful than you are — shouldn’t we all agree that their definition of morality is the most accurate? They all sleep around and do drugs and abuse people and have abortions and get divorced and lie and swear. It’s working for them!
So, while some parents are trying to argue their definition of morality based off pragmatic reasoning, other parents are dealing with the issue in a completely different way.
These parents are trying to shelter their kids from any and all outside influences. They think that as long as their kids aren’t introduced to other views on morality, their kids won’t question the morality of their parents.
However, this is not inherently Christ-honoring. The entire country of North Korea takes this exact same tact! They don’t want their people being influenced by the perceived immorality of America, so they make it virtually impossible for their people to hear those messages by controlling the airwaves, the internet, and the boarders.
And nearly all parents — when our kids push us into a corner because we can’t debate them into accepting our position or shelter them from all other positions — we throw down the authority card. “You will live by my morality because this is my house and my money, and if you want to live here, you’re going to submit to my morality.”
And that’s why some kids run away. They believe they don’t need you to survive. They’d rather be a runaway and live their own morality than submit to yours in a comfortable home.
I had a peer who did this in college. His parents bankrolled everything in his life, they were paying for his food, clothes, technology, college — everything — but he felt like he just couldn’t submit to them for just two more years in order to get his diploma. He ran away at the end of his sophomore year because he wanted to live life his own way.
So, this brings up two important issues:
Let’s tackle the first.
1. Your morality is not good enough for your kids.
There are a couple ways to understand this point.
A. As we already mentioned, your morality based on your own opinions, feelings, and beliefs are not a sufficient basis for anyone’s morality. Who cares what you think? What matters is what God thinks.
B. Even if you have adopted God’s definition of morality for your life, your children are going to have to do that for themselves. Your faith isn’t good enough for them. Your standards — forced on your kids — won’t help anything.
A former pastor of mine, Alan Benson, once said, “I don’t want my kids of have my faith. I want them to have their own faith, and for it to look a lot like mine.” He went on to explain that every member of his family was responsible for putting their personal trust in God and living accordingly. You never want to try to push your faith on your kids. You want them to put their own faith in Christ.
So, no, your morality isn’t good enough for your kids. But God’s morality is perfect for all of you.
But does that mean that merely conforming your views of right and wrong to the Scriptures is good enough? No, probably not.
2. Superficial conformity to the Bible isn’t better than rejection of the Bible.
What one group of people in the New Testament did Jesus harangue the most? That’s right, it was the people with the “highest” views of morality.
The Pharisees and Sadducees and Scribes had very high standards for their belief and practice. They worked extra hard to keep the Law — so much so that they added to the Law to make it harder for them to break the Law.
And yet, in Matthew 23, Jesus pronounces eight woes against them. Allow me to abbreviate the passage. “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 [Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.] 15 . . . you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. [You] say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’ “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?”
So, how do we avoid the same trap into which the Pharisees fell? How do we teach our kids to truly embrace God’s morality?
Well, we have to start at the very beginning.
Then — and only then — will they embrace the full spectrum of God’s morality.
And what is God’s morality?
It’s not just doing the right things in the right ways, it’s doing the right things in the right ways for the right reasons in the right power.
Why should my three year old put away his toys? Because it’s the right thing to do.
Why should he do it quickly, sweetly, and completely? Because it’s the right way to do it.
What should be the motivation for his obedience? He needs to learn that God is so amazing and wonderful and loving that we need to obey Him in all we do.
For your older kids who are living in a world with sex-trafficking, abortion, euthanasia, racism, moral relativism, and more forms of aberrant sexuality than you can count, they need to turn to the Scriptures to know how best to respond — not just because dad and mom told them to, but because God is trustworthy. He knows best. He’s deserves our worship.
All children create their own morality. Everyone does what they believe is best. That means your children’s complaining and lies and promiscuity and bad attitudes and disobedience is the result of a godless morality.
But one of God’s greatest blessing to your children was to give them you — but not because your morality is better than their’s. God’s plan is that you believe that “The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates . . . . When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What do the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments mean which the LORD our God commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son, ‘We were slaves [to sin], and the LORD brought us [out] with a mighty hand . . . . 23 He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the [blessings] which He had sworn to [us].’ 24 So the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today. 25 It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the LORD our God, just as He commanded us.
Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets so Christian dads and moms can learn how God would have us respond to the biggest parenting challenges we will ever face.
And, if you would like personalize assistance for your family need, you can email us at Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com or call (828) 423-0894 to speak with a biblical counselor.
I hope you’ll join us next time as we open God’s Word to discover how to parent our children for life and godliness.
To that end, we’ll take a short break from this series to prepare for the Season of Life!
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